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Monday, February 8, 2016

What's Up with English with McCabe?

Not much is up with English with McCabe these days since I retired from my position as an English professor at Pasadena City College. I'll be stopping by PCC from time to time, but for now I'm off to other things.  If you need to reach me, you can contact me on Facebook or send me an email:

Frank Sinatra sings "Angel Eyes"

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Antonio Tapia: It’s not that I can’t, but how can I?

Antonio Tapia, a student in my English 1A, fall 2015, tells us what it is to be a student and a man who is physically handicapped. It is worth reading. Antonio, thanks for sending this to me and allowing me to share it with others.

A Reflection by Antonio Tapia

I have always had physical limitations, and as a teenager it bothered me a bit. One thing that always helped me overcome this feeling of being dependent on someone else was being able to go to school. We can learn something new every day if we put our effort into it. My mother always taught me to believe that everyone is equal to each other, but I have seen not everyone has this belief. Due to my disability I have been judged by what I can and cannot do,  but for me it’s not that I can’t, but how can I? I still do have limitations, but I always try to do my best at the things that I can do. I’m good at using a computer, and it is something I can use on my own. Technology is a tool that has allowed me to efficiently do some of my daily tasks. For now, technology has not made all things completely accessible, and sometimes I become frustrated when I can’t physically do something without someone helping me out.
Two of the devices that I use daily are my power wheelchair and respirator. I wouldn’t know what I would do without these devices. The respirator aids with my breathing, and the respirator is something I can’t live without. The wheelchair lets me go most places, and I say most because not everywhere is wheelchair accessible. Most people who do not use a wheelchair do not consider this, and sometimes I get invited somewhere that is not accessible for me, including a friend’s house or very old public buildings. Until I am able to get a wheelchair that can climb stairs, I am limited to where I can go. Some buildings have backdoors as the only accessible entrance. One of my friends calls it the VIP entry. It's his way of making me feel better as I can't always go through the front door like everyone else.
I feel that most people do judge me when we first meet, but eventually they see that they shouldn’t. That I always find a way to do the things that I want to do. Sometimes it just requires a different way for me to do something, and of course I am still human. I, too, require to socialize and have fun with others. Please don’t take this as me asking for pity, but to just recognize that I can do a lot more just in a different way.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Christmas in Catalonia. Group Swim in Barcelona. Credit: Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press. from The New York Times, December 15, 2011
Chrisas Day, the big event is a group swim in the chilly waters of the Mediterranean  off  Barcelona.

Etta, Elvis, and Charles: Merry Christmas Baby

Etta James singing "Merry Christmas, Baby"

Elvis Presley singing "Merry Christmas, Baby"

 Charles Brown singing "Merry Christmas, Baby"

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

1B: Raymond Carver (1938-1988)

Raymond Carver (1938-88) said in a 1977 interview,
 “I am beginning to feel like a cigarette with a body attached to it.”
Photograph by Bob Adelman, Syracuse, New York, 1984.

"A writer ought to speak about things that are important to him. . . . I tend to go back to the time and the people I knew well when I was younger and who made a very strong impression on me . . . . most of the people in my stories are poor and bewildered, that's true. The economy, that's important . . . I don't feel I'm a political writer and yet I've been attacked by right-wing critics in the U.S.A. who blame me for not painting a more smiling picture of America, for not being optimistic enough, for writing stories about the people who don't succeed. But these lives are as valid as those of the go-getters. Yes, I take unemployment, money problems, and marital problems as givens in life. People worry about their rent, their children, their home life. That's basic. That's how 80-90 percent, or God knows how many people live. I write stories about a submerged population, people who don't always have someone to speak for them. I'm sort of a witness, and, besides, that's the life I myself lived for a long time. I don't see myself as a spokesman but as a witness to these lives. I'm a writer."
--Raymond Carver

The above remarks by Carver were taken from an interview he did in spring 1987. For the complete text of this interview and one other with Carver, view this link.

Things to do when you're reading Carver

One:  [Recommended.] Watch the videos, above, about Carver.
Two: [Recommended.] Read the Carver pages at the Poetry Foundation.
Three: [Recommended.Read Carver's interview with the Paris Review, from Summer 1983.
Four: [Recommended]:  Read articles, take your pick, on Carver that are linked at The New York Times.
Five: [Recommended]: Visit The New Yorker's Raymond Carver page.  The magazine has published many of Carver's stories and remembrances of him over the years.

The draft of the story, "Beginners," which became "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," can be found right hereIt shows Gordon Lish's edits. There is also a brief sample of Lish's edits here.

Lish's edits are an excellent example of the dynamics, or call it the conflict, that exist between writer and editor. See a discussion of Carver's July 8, 1980 letter to Lish, protesting his recent editorial cuts (some as much as 70%) of his collection of stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Letters from Carver to Lish, including the July 8, 1980 Carver letter to Lish, can be found here.

Now that you are an expert on "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," I invite you to read "What We Talk About When We Talk About Doughnuts," from The New Yorker,  May 10, 1999.

Raymond Carver, Summer 1969. Photograph by Gordon Lish

Six: The Library of America publishes, as they say, "Authoritative texts of great American writing." They have a page on Carver. They also made a statement on Gordon Lish's editing of "Beginners"/"What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" and a letter, a tortured letter, by Carver with a plea to Lish to return the story more closely to the original. The Library of America's statement and Carver's letter appears here.
Seven:  Find "The Bath" at this site.
Eight: Find an early version of "So Much Water So Close to Home" right here. Please note, however, that this version incorrectly includes a question mark ("?") at the end of the story; it should end with a period.

Redesign of Raymond Carver book covers by Todd Hido

Nine: Carver's stories have inspired a number of films.  They include  Short Cuts by Robert Altman (and a cast of dozens, at least).  Go here to read an interview with filmmaker Altman and poet Tess Gallagher, Carver's widow. Here's Roger Ebert's review of Short Cuts. A list of other Carver-inspired films can be found at IMDB.

Ten: Listen to writer Richard Ford, a close friend of Carver, read Carver's "The Student's Wife."

Eleven: Want to learn more about Carver and his editor, Gordon Lish? Read this from The New York Review of Books.   Thanks to former English 1B student Oshin Edralin, we have a YouTube video to watch about Lish and Carver. Here it is:

Twelve: [Recommended]:  For poetry by Carver go to this site at the Poetry Foundation and click the tab for "Poems, Articles and More." Poetry Soup has a pretty good sample of his poetry, too, as does All Poetry.

Carver described, in a Paris Review interview from the Summer 1983 issue, his writing process and the hard but pleasurable work involved in doing revisions: 

"Much of this work time, understand, is given over to revising and rewriting. There's not much that I like better than to take a story that I've had around the house for a while and work it over again. It's the same with the poems I write. I'm in no hurry to send something off just after I write it, and I sometimes keep it around the house for months doing this or that to it, taking this out and putting that in. It doesn't take that long to do the first draft of the story, that usually happens in one sitting, but it does take a while to do the various versions of the story. I've done as many as twenty or thirty drafts of a story. Never less than ten or twelve drafts."

For The Paris Review's complete interview with Carver, visit this page.

Group work at its finest? Or a staged photo op? From left to right, clockwise: Kary, Elizabeth, Elia, 
Nancy, Sara, and Stephanie, take on Carver's "Fever" at Shatford Library. (June 1, 2011.)

The Carver Gang discussing "What We Talk About When We Talk About Caffeine."
Clockwise, left to right: Stephanie, Tina, Sara, Kary, Brian, Some Guy, Kim and Nancy. June 8, 2011.

In the Paris Review interview, published in the Summer 1983 issue, Carver also discussed the purpose and pleasure of fiction:

"The days are gone, if they were ever with us, when a novel or a play or a book of poems could change people's ideas about the world they live in or even about themselves. Maybe writing fiction about particular kinds of people living particular kinds of lives will allow certain areas of life to be understood a little better than they were understood before. But I'm afraid that's it, at least as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps it's different in poetry. . . . Good fiction is partly a bringing of the news from one world to another. That end is good in and of itself, I think. But changing things through fiction, changing somebody's political affiliation or the political system itself, or saving the whales or the redwood trees, no. Not if these are the kinds of changes you mean. And I don't think it should have to do any of these things, either. It doesn't have to do anything. It just has to be there for the fierce pleasure we take in doing it, and the different kind of pleasure that's taken in reading something that's durable and made to last, as well as beautiful in and of itself. Something that throws off these sparks—a persistent and steady glow, however dim."

For The Paris Review's complete interview with Carver, visit this page.

"I'm not a 'born' poet. I don't know if I'm a 'born' anything except a white American male,Carver said of himself in the Paris Review interview from the Summer 1983 issue. Photograph by Marion Ettlinger for Carver's 1985 poetry collection, Where Water Comes Together With Other Water.

Monday, November 30, 2015

1A: George Orwell (1903-1950) & 1984

There are numerous sources available on the web about George Orwell, author of Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949). The Orwell Prize is an extraordinary site that has extensive biographical information about him and reproductions of his essays and fiction. A good biography of Orwell can be found at Oxford Directory of National Biography. In addition, a six-part series about him has been posted on YouTube. It runs about a half-hour.  Here are the links for the Orwell program: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI (Part VI may still be broken.) There is also a multi-part series called The Real George Orwell.  Elsewhere you can read Orwell's explanation of why he writes. His reasons, to paraphrase him, briefly: (I) Sheer egotism, (II)  Aesthetic enthusiasm, (III) Historical impulse, (IV) Political purpose.  Click on this for 15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About George Orwell. Christopher Hitchens and George Packer talk about Orwell on C-SPAN (closed captioned).


"Eric Blair (George Orwell) stands third from left in this photo from his days at the Burma Provincial Police Training School, dated 1923." from Wai Moe's article "Orwell's Old School Sold to Burmese Tycoon" in The Irrawaddy: Covering Burma and Southeast Asia, October 26, 2010. (Source: The Irrawaddy).

Yangoon, largest city in Myanmar (Burma), where Orwell served as a police officer, is profiled here. You'll also find several videos about Yangoon at this page.

Question: Is the name of the country where Orwell served known as Burma or Myanmar?  Here's one explanation.

Orwell was in Burma from 1922-27. Burmese Days was Orwell's first novel, published in the U.S. in 1934. Here's an article about the house in Katha, Myanmar (formerly Burma) where he wrote the novel. You can find his essay "How a Nation Is Exploited – The British Empire in Burma" that he wrote as E.A. Blair (aka George Orwell) after returning to Great Britain in 1927.

NPR broadcast a program about Exploring Burma through Orwell. Emma Larkin, author of Finding George Orwell in Burma, published in 2005, is interviewed.  Larkin, the name is a pseudonym, learned how powerful Orwell's writing was for many Burmese.  For one elderly Burmese man, upon hearing the name of the author of 1984, "his eyes suddenly lit up. He looked at me with a brilliant flash of recognition, slapped his forehead gleefully, and said, 'You mean the prophet!'" The prologue of her book, from which this passage appears, can also be found on this NPR page.

Orwell passport photo, circa 1935

You can learn more about the recent history of Myanmar (formerly Burma) from The New York Times. and the BBC News.
During October 2013 violence escalated between Buddhists and Muslims, with six Muslims killed on one attack upon them. From The New York Times, Oct. 15, 2013: "A series of unexplained blasts across Myanmar over the past several days has left two people dead and raised anxiety in the country’s main city, Yangon, where an explosion on Monday at a luxury hotel injured an American tourist."

Obama’s Historic Visit
In mid-November 2012, during a trip to Southeast Asia, President Obama made a historic visit to Myanmar to “extend the hand of friendship” as the country began to throw off military rule and emerge from decades of isolation.

Obama is the first sitting American president to visit Myanmar, with the hope of solidifying the stunning changes that have transformed this country and encouraging additional progress toward a more democratic system. With the promise of more financial assistance, Mr. Obama vowed to “support you every step of the way.”

Asian Elephants (as in Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant")
Some things about them: They are 6.5-11.5 feet tall; weigh around 11,000 pounds; and are 21 feet long, the World Wildlife Fund reports.

Elephants & Timber, 1920's, is also at this page.

Rangoon - Burma (1920-1929) is also at this page.

See Working Elephant of Myanmar here at this page.

Watch from about 13:00 minutes to 19:00 minutes to see working
timber elephants in Myanamar today,
 If the video does not play go to this page.

How important is the Asian Elephant to the region? Here is what the World Wildlife Fund has to say:

"Elephants are an important cultural icon in Asia. According to Indian mythology, the gods (deva) and the demons (asura) churned the oceans in a search for the elixir of life so that they would become immortal. As they did so, nine jewels surfaced, one of which was the elephant. In Hinduism, the powerful deity honored before all sacred rituals is the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha, who is also called the Remover of Obstacles."

Close-up of an Asian elephant. Source: World Wildlife Fund

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)
published June 6, 1949

14 Things You Might Not Know About Nineteen Eighty-Four

Orwell letter and Nineteen Eighty-Four
Open Culture, January 9, 2014
A similar post appears at The Daily Beast, August 12, 2013

Nineteen Eighty-Four reviews, sales, and . . .
The New Worker, undated
iO9, March 6, 2012
The New York Times, January 1, 1984
The Independent, June 7, 2009
BBC, February 10, 2013
The New Yorker, June 11, 2013

Orwellian - The term
Search "Orwellian" on Google and you'll get about 725,000 hits. Here are some:
The Guardian, November 11, 2014
The Daily Mail, June 12, 2009
The Atlantic, September 27, 2012
Big Think, June 6, 2013
CNET, May 13, 2015
PBS Newshour, June 4, 2015

Finally . . .

 Illustration by Lesley Barnes. Inspired by Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

 Book jacket by Erik Alvarado

Monday, November 23, 2015

1A Research Project (SEE SCHEDULE for WED. 11/25)

Are you writing an argument? You are for this assignment.  Watch what some Harvard professors have to say about writing an argument. 

You can also watch the above video with Harvard professors
discussing writing an argument at this site. 

Looking for some statistics or reports? Try some of these sites. These are only a selection. Post in the comments section if you find more.

World Health Organization

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Council on Foreign Relations

National Security Council at The White House website.

U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics

White House Council of Economic Advisors 15 Economic Facts about Millenials

Television News
How's the research going? Could be better? 

Try these TV news sites: 60 MinutesPBS Frontline, and other PBS news programs. Here is an example from PBS Newshour on Students and robotics.

Why search and watch something broadcast on TV?

Chances are you'll find something pertinent to your topic at these sites. If you do, you might see the world you are researching better--you'll see people, places, examples of the concrete and the specific detail. And it will direct you to additional sources.

Check, too, some of the linked sites that appear on English with McCabe, at the right. "NEWSPAPERS, MAGAZINES & JOURNALS" and "FILM, TV & RADIO" are the ones to look for. 


Research Questions
Here's a good exercise I found re: research questions. It is Bedford's My Research Project. It encourages writers to develop research questions by asking the "what, why, when, where, who, how, would/could, [and] should" of their topic. By doing so, writers can better focus their topic, conduct research, organize an essay, and advance an argument. 

MLA & Annotated Bibliography
Purdue OWL is an excellent site for writers.  Here's two of their pages that will be helpful, in addition to what you find in your handbook and on the research assignment sheets: MLA Formatting and Style Guide and Annotated Bibliography.

(this is different than dates on Research Project sheet)

Mon. 11/2
Class Canceled

Wed. 11/4
DUE: Research Proposal & Annotated Bibliography Draft; A Writer’s Reference (reading to be assigned)
Mon. 11/9
DUE: Research Proposal & Annotated Bibliography
 FINAL Revision

Wed. 11/11   Veterans Day — Campus Closed

Mon. 11/16
Class was canceled

Wed. 11/18
DUE: Research Draft #2 (bring 2 copies)
A Writer’s Reference (reading to be assigned)

Mon. 11/23
DUE: Research Draft #3 (bring 2 copies)
A Writer’s Reference (reading to be assigned)

Wed. 11/25
DUE: Research Draft #4 (bring 2 copies)
Bring A Writer’s Reference to class

Thursday 11/26  Thanksgiving - Campus Closed

Mon. 11/30
DUE: Research FINAL Revision

Wed. 12/2
1984 (pages 1-29)

Mon. 12/7
1984 (pages 29-104)

Wed. 12/9
In-class essay re: 1984 (pages 1-104; Bring a blue book)

Final Exam Meeting 
Brief writing assignment

Mon./Wed. 9:15 a.m. class in C 269 will meet for final exam on Wed., Dec. 16, 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

Mon./Wed. 1:45 p.m. class in C 257 will meet for final exam on Wed., Dec. 16, 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Revision Questions for Research Papers

When reviewing the essay draft, make your editorial comments directly on the draft and, in some cases, answer the questions below on the back of the student’s essay. Once you have completed these steps, which should take about 20 minutes, discuss your remarks with the writer.

1. Is the essay title sufficiently focused? If not, offer a suggested title.
2. Does the first paragraph clearly introduce the subject under consideration? Is the theme of the work presented? Are there words (or sentences) in the first paragraph that can be removed (or edited) in order to make the introduction more concise and clear?  does the writer offer a surprising statistic, anecdote, illustration, or provocative question?  Should they?

3. What is the essay's thesis? Is it specific enough for the length of the essay? Where does it appear in the essay? (A thesis is an argument and it is the thread that runs from the beginning to the end of the essay.) Copy what you think the writer’s thesis is on the back of his or her essay.

4. Is the issue under consideration clearly summarized near the beginning of the essay? Should anything be added? On the other hand, is the issue summarized at too great of a length? If either is true, make your suggested revisions directly on the draft.

5. Are quotes from the original work(s) used judiciously? If not, how could they be improved? (Note: no more than 25% of the essay should be comprised of quotations.)

6. What are the best examples in support of the writer's thesis? Can they be more fully developed? How? What other examples could the writer provide?

7. Is there sufficient analysis of the examples? Or does the writer let the examples “speak” for themselves or "prove" the essay's thesis? If this is true, suggest where the writer needs to provide a fuller analysis of the example(s) provided.

8. Is the essay unified? Do paragraph topic sentences connect to the thesis? If not, what are the examples or discussions unrelated to the essay's thesis? If there are sections where the essay lacks focus, suggest an alternative presentation of the thesis and/or the examples so the essay achieves coherence.

9. Is the conclusion earned? Or does it introduce a new topic or idea not relevant to the essay’s thesis?

10. Are rules of citation followed within the essay’s text? If not, mark them for correction by the writer. Do all in-text citations appear on the Works Cited page? Review the sources—whether articles from a newspaper, magazine or scholarly journal, or book—on the Works Cited page. Are all of these sources cited within the essay? Does the Works Cited page follow MLA guidelines?

11. For the writer’s attention, mark errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

1B: Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964)

Let's start here with Flannery O'Connor writing to a literature professor.   She must have been a very patient woman. From Open Culture: "Flannery O’Connor to Lit Professor: 'My Tone Is Not Meant to Be Obnoxious. I’m in a State of Shock.'”

Want to learn more about Flannery O'Connor?  Who doesn't? Check out some of these websites devoted to her: Perspectives in American Literature, and the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.

One of the most extensive websites concerning O'Connor is Comforts of Home: The Flannery O'Connor Repository.  There you will find links to online publications about O'Connor, study guides and biographical information. The New York Times also has a page on O'Connor.  Find an Atlantic magazine review of Brad Gooch's biography of O'Connor, Flanneryhere. More information about O'Connor's life and her writing is forthcoming because of Emory University's  acquisition of her letters, drafts, and journals. These materials will be available to the public.

O'Connor's self-portrait from 1953.

O'CONNOR and art 
from The Paris Review
Flannery O'Connor and the Habit of Art
April 30, 2012 | by Kelly Gerald

"'For the writer of fiction,' Flannery O’Connor once said, 'everything has its testing point in the eye, and the eye is an organ that eventually involves the whole personality, and as much of the world as can be got into it.' This way of seeing she described as part of the 'habit of art,' a concept borrowed from the French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. She used the expression to explain the way of seeing that the artist must cultivate, one that does not separate meaning from experience.

The sketches reproduced here are from Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons,
 work that she did in high school and college. 

"The visual arts became one of her favorite touchstones for explaining this process. Many disciplines could help your writing, she said, but especially drawing: 'Anything that helps you to see. Anything that makes you look.' Why was this emphasis on seeing and vision so important to her in explaining how fiction works? Because she came to writing from a background in the visual arts, where everything the artist communicates is apprehended, first, by the eye.

"She had developed the habits of the artist, that way of seeing and observing and representing the world around her, from years of working as a cartoonist. She discovered for herself the nuances of practicing her craft in a medium that involved communicating with images and experimenting with the physical expressions of the body in carefully choreographed arrangements. Her natural proclivity for capturing the humorous character of real people and concrete situations, two rudimentary elements she later asserted form the genesis of any story, found expression in her prolific drawings and cartoons long before she began her career as a fiction writer.

"Beginning at about age five, O’Connor drew and made cartoons, created small books, and wrote stories and comical sketches, often accompanied by her own illustrations. Although her interest in writing was equally evident, by the time she reached high school her abilities as a cartoonist had moved to the forefront. After her first cartoon was published in the fall of 1940, her work appeared in nearly every issue of her high-school and college newspapers, as well as yearbooks—roughly a hundred between 1940 and 1945—and most of these were produced from linoleum block cuts. When she graduated from the Georgia State College for Women in Milledgeville in 1945, she was a celebrated local cartoonist preparing for a career in journalism that would, she hoped, combine work as a professional writer and cartoonist."

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: read the remainder of this essay.

O'CONNOR'S influence:
O'Connor is important to many writers, so they frequently mention her in their interviews and essays, T.C. Boyle among them. Here is what he had to say about her: 

"[L]et us not forget Flannery O'Connor. I discovered her as an undergraduate (for an adjective-rich description of your not-so-humble narrator at the time, see above). I was in a literature class--the Contemporary Short Story or some such. And she, the most remarkable American writer of the '50s, was where she so assuredly deserved to be--enshrined in a fat anthology. The story was 'A Good Man is Hard to Find,' and it remains my favorite of all time, though certain pieces by the Three Cs (Cheever, Carver, and Coover) give it a run for the money. This story seems to me perfect in its radical synthesis of the horrific and the hilarious. I've read it a hundred times and I still laugh aloud at the scheming and senile grandmother, the howling brats, and the henpecked Bailey, and find the scene in which the grandmother's cat (Pitty Sing) attaches itself to the back of Bailey's neck, thus fomenting the accident, both chilling and (yes) wickedly funny. What ensues is a morality play that chills me right down to the black pit of my black heart. Accident rules the world, accident and depravity, and I don't have O'Connor's faith to save me from all that." (source: Reinhard Donat's webpage.)

O'Connor's notebooks. Photograph by Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

"Now I am perfectly willing to believe Flannery O’Connor when she said, and she wasn’t kidding, that the modern world is a territory largely occupied by the devil. No one doubts the malevolence abroad in the world. But the world is also deranged. . . . the novelist is entitled to a degree of artifice and cunning, as Joyce said; or the 'indirect method,' as Kierkegaard said; or the comic-bizarre for shock therapy, as Flannery O’Connor did." 
-- Walker Percy

"Flannery O’Connor was probably the biggest influence in my mature writing life. I didn’t discover her until I was at Arkansas, and I didn’t read her until I was around twenty-five, twenty-six. She was so powerful, she just knocked me down. I still read Flannery and teach her. . . . [I read] “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and then I read everything. . . . I thought the author was a guy. I thought it was a guy for three years until someone clued me in very quietly at Arkansas. “It’s a woman, Barry.” Her work is so mean. The women are treated so harshly. The misogyny and religion. It was so foreign and Southern to me. She certainly was amazing."
-- Barry Hannah

"I take comfort in the way that, say, Flannery O’Connor would tend to revisit the same situations without losing much in the way of her power or variety. You know, you have the surly daughter who is driven nuts by her mother’s cheer and simplistic piety and common sense, and a shiftless handyman around somewhere. There are recurring patterns in her work, but she manages to refresh them each time out. I suppose I hope to achieve something like that. . . . But to get back to Flannery O’Connor, what kind of experience did she have, afterall? She spent, what, one year away from her farm in Milledgeville? Yet her stories are full of life and drama and real humanity, and it’s because she kept her eyes open."
-- Tobias Wolfe

Bruce Springsteen was asked by The New York Times Book Review, October 30, 2014: "If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

"One would be difficult, but the short stories of Flannery O’Connor landed hard on me. You could feel within them the unknowability of God, the intangible mysteries of life that confounded her characters, and which I find by my side every day. They contained the dark Gothicness of my childhood and yet made me feel fortunate to sit at the center of this swirling black puzzle, stars reeling overhead, the earth barely beneath us."
-- Bruce Springsteen

"A writer like Flannery O’Connor, in stories like 'Good Country People' or 'A Good Man Is Hard to Find,' can not only make you laugh aloud, but make you cringe too. And make you think. To engage your humor and your emotions, that’s quite a trick. I’d like to think that I’m able to do that, to keep the reader off balance—is this the universe of the comedy or the tragedy? or some unsettling admixture of the two?—to go beyond mere satire into something more emotionally devastating, and gratifying. If that ain’t art, I don’t know what is."
-- T. Coraghessan Boyle

"My Dear God: A young writer’s prayers" by O'Connor was published in The New YorkerSeptember 16, 2013. The magazine introduces O'Connor's words by saying, how these "excerpts from her journal chart her thoughts on the subject of faith and prayer, and her hopes for her fiction."

A review of O'Connor's A Prayer Journal can also be found at NPR. Listen to or read the transcript of the November 20, 2013 broadcast here. 

Now for some words from O'Connor herself.  I invite you to read her address "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction" from 1960. There is also an audio clip of O'Connor reading it aloud here. It is in this address that O'Connor says the following: "The social sciences have cast a dreary blight on the public approach to fiction. When I first began to write, my own particular bête noire was that mythical entity, The School of Southern Degeneracy. Every time I heard about The School of Southern Degeneracy, I felt like Br'er Rabbit stuck on the Tarbaby. There was a time when the average reader read a novel simply for the moral he could get out of it, and however naive that may have been, it was a good deal less naive than some of the more limited objectives he now has. Today novels are considered to be entirely concerned with the social or economic or, psychological forces that they will by necessity exhibit, or with those details of daily life that are for the good novelist only means to some deeper end."

When you get a chance, and I hope it is soon, read her story "Good Country People". Funny, dark, tragic and wise: all the things another great O'Connor story delivers.

Milledgeville, GA is the town where O'Connor grew up and returned to as an adult.
 It also serves as the inspiration and landscape for many of her stories.   
A writer for The New York Times visited O'Connor's Georgia and shares his observations of what he found:

"THE sun was white above the trees, and sinking fast. I was a few miles past Milledgeville, Ga., somewhere outside of Toomsboro, on a two-lane highway that rose and plunged and twisted through red clay hills and pine woods. . . . Somewhere outside Toomsboro is where, in O'Connor's best-known short story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” a family has a car accident and a tiresome old grandmother has an epiphany.

"O'Connor's short stories and novels are set in a rural South where people know their places, mind their manners and do horrible things to one another. It's a place that somehow hovers outside of time, where both the New Deal and the New Testament feel like recent history. It's soaked in violence and humor, in sin and in God. He may have fled the modern world, but in O'Connor's he sticks around, in the sun hanging over the tree line, in the trees and farm beasts, and in the characters who roost in the memory like gargoyles. It's a land haunted by Christ — not your friendly hug-me Jesus, but a ragged figure who moves from tree to tree in the back of the mind, pursuing the unwilling."

from "In Search of Flannery O'Connor" by Lawrence Downes, The New York Times, Feb. 4, 2007.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Listen to Stephen Colbert read O'Connor's "The Enduring Chill."

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: You can listen to O'Connor read "A Good Man is Hard to Find." It was recorded in 1959 at Vanderbilt University. Note how O'Connor's reading draws attention to the story's humor.

O'Connor loved birds, keeping many species on her farm in Milledgeville, Georgia.
   She was especially fond of  "the king of birds," the peacock, pictured with her, above.